There are over 800 distinctly different varietals in Italy, most of which are completely unknown to us mortal wine drinkers. Apart from the sheer number, one potential reason for many people not knowing even important varietals is that in most cases they do not appear on the label. This is the case in many old world appellations across Italy, Spain, France and even other countries. Appellations in Europe carry a much heavier “brand name”, partially because not only do they enforce what grapes the wine makers must use, but in many cases also the style of wine making is regulated. DOCs, and DOCGs in Italy are fairly strict and if you want to put “Barolo” or “Chianti” on a label, it better adhere to the local rules or else…

Today’s wine is from the Cesanese del Piglio DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata). The predominant grape in Cesanese del Piglio is not surprisingly the Cesanese di Affile, a fairly obscure Italian varietal virtually exclusively grown in this small appellation right outside of Rome. The varietal is said to be just as hard to cultivate as Pinot Noir, which makes these wines quite expensive, I would say a bit overpriced for what they are. Giovanni Terenzi‘s Vajoscuro is one of the best examples of this region, of course outside of the Torre Ercolana, the cult wine I described in an earlier entry. Unlike the Torre Ercolana, this wine is 100% Cesanese di Affile, so if you want to find out this grape’s potential, I would recommend this wine.

When you open the bottle the first thing you notice is that it smells like an old wine cellar. I am pretty sure my bottle is not corked, it is the natural aroma this wine exudes. As many Italian reds, this Cesanese is quite high in acid, but you taste a load of blueberry with a tobacco and leather undertone. For the first hour or so after opening you get a massive amount of tannins, which tend to subside after it has been open for several hours. I think it is too heavy on the tannins and it is better to open it up and decant it a few hours before consumption. You will taste the characteristics of the wine much better this way. The body is on the lighter side of medium and you barely notice the oak, which makes sense as it only spends about 10 months in French oak. It is best to drink with game dishes, or if you insist on pasta, definitely pick something with a meat sauce. I could also see it well paired with strong hard cheeses.

Name: Vajoscuro, Cesanese del Piglio, 2003

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Body: Light to Medium

Price: ~ 20 euros

Got it at: Enoteca Lo Schiaffo Di Tagliaboschi, Anagni, Italy

Vajoscuro, Cesanese del Piglio, 2003

The Treasures of Rome

November 1, 2007

Lazio, the region around Rome, is not quite as famous for its wines as other regions of Italy, such as Campania, Chianti, Veneto or Barolo. Most of the fame here is generated by whites, perhaps the best known among them is Frascati, which comes from a village by the same name a few kilometers outside of Rome.

This is not to say there are no decent producers of red wines in Lazio. There are several, and they are not, by any stretch of the imagination, behind their brothers in Tuscany or Piemonte. One of these fantastic producers is Colacicchi in the quaint village of Anagni, about an hour south of Rome. Colacicchi is owned by Francesco Trimani, who also owns one of Rome’s best wine stores.

Colacicchi’s Torre Ercolana has achieved a sort of cult status in Lazio over the last decades. It is hard to get, expensive, and absolutely world class. The wine is a blend of the local Cesanese di Affile and the international varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Think supertuscans and you are not that far away. Velvety, complex, a load of fruit, just absolutely perfectly balanced.

I picked up a bottle of this beauty and some other local treasures at a small enoteca in Anagni. Unfortunately we could not visit the winery, but got a taste of the gorgeous land around. I would love to go back to visit with some of these lesser known, but amazingly talented winemakers of the region. Life is too short!

Name: Cantina Colacicchi, Torre Ercolana, 2000

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Body: Medium to Full

Price: 40 euros

Got it at: Enoteca Lo Schiaffo Di Tagliaboschi, Anagni, Italy

Cantina Colacicchi, Torre Ercolana, 2000